Can the government restrict economic liberty just to enrich a group of politically favored insiders?
That’s the question the Institute for Justice (IJ) and its client, Saint Joseph Abbey of Saint Benedict, La., have taken to federal court in challenging the constitutionality of Louisiana’s outrageous requirement that the monks of the Abbey must be licensed as funeral directors and convert their monastery into a licensed funeral home in order to sell their handmade wooden caskets.
“We are not a wealthy monastery, and we want to sell our plain wooden caskets to pay for food, health care, and the education of our monks,” said IJ client Abbot Justin Brown.
Under Louisiana law, it is a crime for anyone but a licensed funeral director to sell “funeral merchandise,” which includes caskets. To sell caskets legally, the monks would have to abandon their calling for one full year to apprentice at a licensed funeral home, and convert their monastery into a “funeral establishment” by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming. The State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors is now going after Saint Joseph Abbey for the “sin” of selling caskets without a government-issued license.
What has been an open secret is now backed by empirical evidence:
The most successful institutes in terms of attracting and retaining new members at this time are those that follow a more traditional style of religious life in which members live together in community and participate in daily Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and engage in devotional practices together. They also wear a religious habit, work together in common apostolates, and are explicit about their fidelity to the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. All of these characteristics are especially attractive to the young people who are entering religious life today.*
As I have been reading through the website of the National Religious Vocation Conference (NRVC) I came across this nugget of information [Emphases Mine]:
Myth #4: Women entering religious life want to wear habits.Fact: Both men and women seem to be drawn to habited communities. About two thirds of the newer members say they belong to a religious institute that wears a habit. Among those that responded affirmatively, a little more than half indicate that the habit is required in all or most circumstances.
Interestingly, almost half of the men who belong to an institute that does not wear a habit say they would wear it if it were an option [and those that don’t wear habits are obviously being disobedient and committing a mortal sin], compared to nearly a quarter of the women respondents.
Ann Carey of The Catholic World Report wrote that the study found several “best practices”:
- Involving membership and leadership in concerted vocation promotion efforts.
- Having a full-time vocation director.
- Using new media like the Internet.
- Offering discernment or “come-and-see” opportunities for potential members.
- Exposing young people to the idea of religious life from grade school through young adulthood.
What stuck out and confirmed what I’ve always thought in attracting people to religious vocations, as well as bringing in converts to the Catholic faith is:
“the example of members and the characteristics of the institute…have the most influence on the decision to enter a particular institute.”
As Saint John said in his epistle:
Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life, which is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the concupiscence thereof: but he that doth the will of God, abideth for ever. (1 Jn 2:15-17)
The rest of this posting will be an excerpt of Ann Carey‘s article on The Catholic World Report where she sights some examples of booming traditional religious orders: